The American Legislative Exchange Council—which has spent the last few years trying to subvert democracy—meets this week in Washington, D.C., to trot out its legislative agenda for next year. Note that this is the Koch brothers-backed group that creates “model legislation” for right-wing led states to adopt that undercuts some of the basic elements of broadly supported public programs, such as public schools.
The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch has the lengthy breakdown, but a few special items stand out. From its curated list:
* Another bill to undermine unions, masquerading as “employee choice,” called the “Public Employee Choice Act” (PDF, p. 6), is effectively “right to work” for public employees, and undermines collective bargaining by allowing workers to freeload off the benefits of union negotiations without paying the costs of union representation. The bill appears to be based on an Oregon 2014 ballot initiative, Initiative 9. It is similar to so-called “right to work,” only for public employees, and its euphemistic use of the word “choice” has been appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court. The “Public Employee Choice Act Committee” has so far taken in over $52,000 and spent over $36,000 as of November 25, according to campaign finance records filed with the Oregon Secretary of State, which doesn’t track the money spent and raised on dark money “issue ads.
* Further efforts to eliminate occupational licensing for any profession, which help ensure that people who want to call themselves doctors, long-haul truckers, accountants, or barbers meet basic standards of training and expertise to guarantee that consumers are safe and get what they pay for. This extreme bill, called the “Private Certification Act” (PDF, p. 11), swims against the current of what most people want, which are to be treated by professionals who meet standards for competence or safety that have been established by law through the democratic process.
Call that last one the Rand Paul Act, for the libertarian senator who created his own licensing board to keep his ophthalmology certification live.
The general push of the ALEC “model legislation” is toward privatization of government services, reduction in regulatory oversight and limiting consumers’ access to courts to redress grievances. And to let loose the dogs of capitalism on the environment.
* A new attack on clean energy policies, attempting to slow the growth of the clean energy industry by weakening net metering policies (which reduce energy bills of consumers who install solar panels, for example), called the “Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution” (PDF, p. 11). Brian McCormick, Vice President for Political and External Affairs of the Edison Electric Institute—a member of ALEC—helped Arizona Public Service—another ALEC member—draft the resolution, as the Energy & Policy Institute’s Gabe Elsner reported in the Huffington Post.
* The EEA task force will also gauge “interest for [a] future natural gas, hydraulic fracturing, and pipeline symposium.” But ALEC members’ “interest” in these extractive and environmentally destructive activities is no secret. Last October, as CMD discovered, outgoing ALEC National Chair John Piscopo, a state Representative from Connecticut, went on an ALEC-organized, all-expenses-paid trip to the Alberta tar sands with eight other ALEC legislators. Keystone XL pipeline company TransCanada and oil interests like the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers sponsored the trip. CMD filed a complaint in Nebraska against Sen. Jim Smith, who never disclosed that he received expensive chartered flights in Canada. Rep. Piscopo also didn’t disclose the value of flights, hotel rooms, and meals that he received on the trip, although Connecticut law is not as strict as Nebraska law about such influence peddling.
So we know where the legislative assaults are coming from, and what they’re targeting. Defending against them will be the trick.